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NJ Civil Settlements

Buena Regional paid out $185,000 to settle secretary’s hostile work environment lawsuit.

On May 6, 2019, the Buena Regional Board of Education (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $185,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a confidential secretary who claimed that the school district’s business administrator gave a female employee in whom he had a sexual interest a $10,000 raise to be his secretary.  According to the suit,  the business administrator took the employee to the Tropicana in Atlantic City to have sex with her and also had sex with her in his office during school time.  It was further alleged that both the business administrator and the female employee bragged to the secretary about the intensity of their sexual encounters.

In her lawsuit, Phyllis Boehm, a secretary for Buena Regional, claimed that Business Administrator Pasquale Yacovelli gave a $10,000 raise to a secretary who worked “on a different side of the building” so that she would become his secretary and ultimately his lover.  Boehm claimed that the secretary, who is referred to in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” was her friend and that Yacovelli asked her talk to Jane Doe about his interest in her.

According to Boehm, Yacovelli would say things to her such as “Hook a brother up” and make comments about Jane Doe’s body “and say that he wanted her sexually.”  Jane Doe was apparently not averse to Yacovelli’s interest because, according to the complaint, when Yacovelli allegedly asked whether “it’s a red light, green light or yellow light,” Jane responded “Perhaps yellow light.”

When Yacovelli asked Jane if she wanted to be his secretary, she reportedly “laughed and said, ‘If you get me a $10,000 raise, I’ll be your secretary.'”  According to the lawsuit, Jane became Yacovelli’s secretary in September 2015 and Yacovelli “used his influence as Business Administrator to get Jane the ten thousand dollar raise she wanted.”

Thereafter, according to the complaint, Yacovelli and Jane Doe would regularly “steal school time” to have sex in Yacovelli’s office.  After one sexual encounter, Yacovelli allegedly “lifted one arm and pumped his fist” in Boehm’s presence and said “I wrecked it, Philly.”  The pair also reportedly went to the Tropicana in Atlantic City and the Holiday Inn Express on Route 322 to have sex.  According to the suit, Jane Doe told Boehm that Yacovelli was “a machine” and “would make comments about [his] sexual performance.”

Boehm said that she “was very uncomfortable with the whole situation” and that Yacovelli’s and Jane Doe’s sexual activity and comments created “an environment that was hostile for women to work in [and] was in violation of [the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination].”

Before working for Buena Regional, Yacovelli served as business administrator for the Ocean City Board of Education until his October 7, 2014 resignation. Yacovelli also previously served as a member of the Audubon Board of Education.

The case is captioned Boehm v. Buena Regional School District, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-496-17 and Boehm’s attorney was Leo B. Dubler of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Buena Regional or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Boehm $185,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendant’s decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project